Back to the roots

Back to the roots

Back to the roots
With adverse climate changes and environment-related problems popping up, a need to reverse the damage done is the call of the hour. On the occasion of ‘World Environment Day’, nature enthusiasts talk about what should be in focus. 

Many citizens feel that development has paved way for further environmental damages. Dr Ganesh Babu N M, head of Centre for Herbal Gardens at Foundation for Revitalization of Local Health Traditions, says, “Due to broadening of roads in areas like Yelahanka among others, trees which are as old as 200 years are being cut down and native trees like ‘jamun’, ‘banyan’, ‘peepal’ and ‘neem’ are being uprooted. While replenishing the green cover is a must, it should be with native plants and trees. Instead exotic trees like ‘Peltophorum pterocarpum’, ‘Tabebuia’, ‘Gulmohar’ and ‘Jacaranda’ are being planted in the city. These don’t invite any birds and affect the temperature,” he says.

There are a number of corporate companies which take up tree-planting as part of their CSR activities. “According to statistics, there are more than 10 million trees that were planted by these companies, but they seem to be missing. These companies do not have any provisions to maintain them. This proves useless,” says Dr Ganesh Babu.

“One has to be ecologically sensitive and the Forest and Horticulture Department needs to be aware of specifics of trees.” He adds that there are around 100 herbs and other trees that should be planted. “There are certain trees for every region and they fit perfectly there. The trees that are being planted now do not attract pollinators, which will affect the ecology.”

Nature enthusiast Usha Ramaiah, a coordinator for ‘Kids For Tiger’ programme, says that cutting down old trees in the name of new buildings is taking a toll on the environment. “Even big lung spaces like Cubbon Park and Lalbagh have disturbance in them. There is regular trimming of trees and the parks are swept a lot. Some of the birds depend on insects which are on the ground and these are missing now. Earlier, one could see birds like Magpie Robin in plenty in Lalbagh,” she says. She says that maintenance of these gardens should accommodate these factors. “Now one can find clusters of beehives or even owls at apartment complexes. This is because they can’t find a place to go to.”

She adds that the parks and even the Bannerghatta National Park should have lesser traffic flowing in. “A certain control on footfalls in these parks by increasing the ticket rates is a must. People walk in to play football and destroy trees in the process.”

Birdwatchers in the city have noticed that tanks in areas like Varthur and Bellandur are extremely polluted and this is affecting the migratory bird population. “There is an increase of pigeons in the city, which has affected the number of sunbirds and other birds that help in pollination,” she adds.

While many would claim that corrective measures are being taken, there are others who feel that there is a long way to go. Wildlife photographer and nature lover Kalyan Varma says that the national parks are degrading from inside. “The conflict of animal welfare versus conservation is a big debate — one has to be pragmatic about how to take this forward. The economic aspirations are another focus — people who support conservation are labelled as anti-development. Climate change, which is due to deteriorating weather, is the biggest thing,” says Kalyan.

Though overcrowding can be seen at green sites like national parks, Kalyan sees this as a positive change. “This shows that Indians are interested and proud of their green heritage. But there is a lot of harassment and tension that the animals go through when nature enthusiasts, trekkers or photographers visit. There are many birds which nest on the ground and even they are affected.”

Others like Varad B Giri, a post-doctoral fellow with National Centre for Biological Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, say that the ecology is affected by even a slight disturbance in the count of amphibians in the city too.

“Frogs are really important as they feed on insects, which keeps their population under control. But when all wetlands are used for development, the population of frogs goes down. More than 57% of amphibians in India are under threat now.”  He says that when water bodies are affected, this affects the bio-diversity.

“When one protects a frog, they are protecting a freshwater body, which is an important resource for people. The definition of development needs to change. Be it deforestation or habitat alteration, each of these are important facets to be concerned about,” says Varad.  
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